Why I'm Encouraging My Teenage Son To Join The 'Black Lives Matter' Protests

by Leslie Blanchard
Originally Published: 
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My 19-year-old son works at a high-end poshy steakhouse in the heart of downtown America. The city in which we live. He had a shift last Saturday night.

Initially, when he got his schedule for the week, I was thrilled he was getting scheduled so many hours. I know it’s risky for him to be milling about in public with coronavirus still at large, but ever since he got sent home from his university after Spring Break due to public health concerns, I’ve grown increasingly concerned over how detrimental it is to his overall well-being to be isolated from his peers at his age.

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As parents of young people in this age group know, it’s a balancing act.

For my son, at least right now, I believe it’s in his best interests to wear a mask and work a few days per week. It feels like a chance worth taking in the ongoing trapeze walk that has become my life as a single parent.

Until this past weekend…

I spent seven hours glued to the news. It was more news than I’ve watched since my husband was killed. In fact, it was the very first time I have watched the news since I watched my sweetheart’s mangled motorcycle being towed off the street on three separate news channels. I picked up the remote, clicked the news off and haven’t seen a news report since.

Until Saturday.

But big trouble was brewing in our downtown area. My youngest son was down there oblivious to it all, bussing tables. My biggest worry was him getting to his car safely after work. I texted him to come straight home after his shift ended and steer clear of any protests or large crowds.

He texted me back assuring me that there were not any protests in our town and they were only in very large major cities; adding that IF there was one, he would definitely want to go find it.

That was when I knew I potentially had a dilemma on my hands. I don’t know why it never crossed my mind that he wouldn’t avoid the protesters, but would rather seek them out. He has never been one to stomach social injustice in any form, and I love him for that.

At this point, I hadn’t even made myself watch the George Floyd video. I admit I’ve allowed myself to live in a protective bubble since my husband was killed. Can we just write it off to some innate survival instinct? I cried inconsolably after I watched the video.

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My boy arrived home safe and sound a few hours later. Exhausted to the bone from a grueling night at the restaurant, completely oblivious to the fact that there had INDEED been a mild uprising in our medium-to-large sized city, with more planned for the following day.

The next morning, my son woke up to several informative texts from friends. The group Black Lives Matter had organized a daytime rally which would start that afternoon at the steps of our state capital and march to the steps of our city’s police station.

I heard about it the night before, so I knew before my son did. I spent all night researching reasons why he shouldn’t go. I had a dozen good reasons – ranging from the fact that hate groups were protesting against the peaceful protestors in very dangerous and aggressive ways, to some dumb “Mom reasons,” such as “you’ll need a TON of sunblock out there to protect your ginger skin in that blazing heat …”

I know. That’s super weak. But I was desperate, and my youngest of five children is a cross between Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran.

In the end, after a sleepless night of grappling with the pros and the cons, I realized that I raised all five of my kids from the cradle to the crowd – the protesting crowd. I was never the mother that chased my kids with a jacket, a tissue, or even a bedtime. I trusted them to know if they were cold or sick or tired…it was always their call. But what I always drew a hard line at was character issues and mistreatment of others.

I recall drilling into each and every single one of them that they had more than a responsibility, but a MANDATE to protect the bullied. I specifically remember telling this very son once, when we were discussing a kid in his class that was being bullied, that if he stood by silently, than he was AS GUILTY as the bully himself.

So…now my kids accuse me of making them overly-sensitive. Okay. I guess I can own that. I hope they can work that into my eulogy. Better yet, maybe I can just write my own eulogy. I think I’d like that.

Is that a thing? Please tell me that’s a thing. Writing one’s own eulogy should be a thing.

I’m going to grit my teeth and grip my rosary while my kids stand up against what they feel is wrong in this country. I pray to God it doesn’t cost me any children because I know I’ll only have myself to blame (and their Dad, who caused many a dust-up speaking his mind anytime he wanted. He was not afraid to challenge authority – EVER!!! ).

It looks like a lot of us raised a generation of bull-headed, strong-willed, rabble-rousers who not only speak up for others, but live their truths.

I think what our generation can do right now is attend peaceful protests (they need bodies), donate funds, organize vigils, and change the rhetoric, for the love of God and humanity. But most importantly, show our kids we are proud of them for doing the right thing at the right time and trying to make a difference.

And, of course, we can still make them wear sunblock.

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